You generally will need 1/3rd of a pound of pulled pork per person. But to estimate how much raw pork you’ll have to buy, there actually is a formula that you can use (more on it later).
I’ve been in charge of bringing the pulled pork for my family’s cookouts for years now. But I have to be honest, I was kind of confused at first about how much pulled pork I’d need. I did mess up a few times and did not bring enough in the beginning. However, ever since I learned about the 1/3 method while prepping for a barbecue competition, I’ve had it on wrap.
So, today, I thought about sharing my knowledge about how much pulled pork per person you’ll need, and some other added information.
How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?
A general rule of thumb is that you will need 1/3 a pound of cooked pulled pork for a person. If you’re feeding kids, I’d say that you can get away with 1/4 of a pound instead – they just don’t eat that much.
But how do you know how much raw pork you’ll have to buy in the first place? There actually is a formula that can help you. Just remember that the formula can differ a bit depending on if your cut has bones or not (for both raw pork shoulder and pork butt).
Here’s the formula for pork without bones:
[Number of guests x 1/3] x 2 = pounds of raw pork needed for pulled pork
Here’s an example situation:
Let’s say you’re planning on serving pulled pork to a group of 15. With the formula in mind, you’ll first have to multiply the group number by 1/3, so, you’ll end up with 5. Then, you have to multiply the 5 by 2: this will be the pounds of raw pork that you’ll have to buy: 5 x 2 is 10, so you will need 10 pounds of raw pork from the store in the end.
As mentioned, the formula differs if you’re buying a cut with bones. This all comes down to the bones adding more weight. Here’s the formula you’ll have to use instead:
[Number of guests x 1/2] x 2 = pounds of raw pork needed for pulled pork
There’s still some variables to consider before deciding how much pulled pork per person to serve. The specific dish that you’re trying to make is the biggest one. Think about it – you might need more cooked pork if you’re making sandwiches versus trying to cook pulled pork tacos.
I’d say that the event/occasion that you’re cooking for is also important. If it’s a formal event, your guests will most likely be having finger food, so you can get away with smaller portions if you don’t have enough pulled pork.
How Can You Make Your Pulled Pork Stretch Further?
If you’re making pulled pork sandwiches, a good way to do this would be to use heartier buns. I personally like to use potato buns: they are really hearty and also have this slight almost sweet flavor.
But apart from this, you can also go heavy with the sides. They don’t have to be too complex, as a simple potato salad would work well. I don’t know about you, but I like to add crispy bacon bits to my potato salads. It adds to the flavor and beefs it up a bit.
I’ve heard people say that using a thick barbecue sauce can help you get more out of your cooked meat. However, doing this to your pulled pork won’t do much for its serving size. Also, going with a thick bbq sauce will just mess with the whole texture of the meal which can end up feeling like mush.
What’s The Best Cut For Smoking Pulled Pork?
There are two main cuts that you can use to smoke pulled pork – raw pork butt and shoulder (also known as picnic shoulder). My favorite is the pork butt, but let’s take a look at them both.
1. Pork Butt
Although you might think that pork butt comes from a pig’s rear, it’s really not. It’s from the shoulder area: it gets its name after being packed in barrels called ‘butts’.
The cuts have a lot of intramuscular fat/marbling, so they will render and be super moist when you cook them down.
You can either get with bone-in pork butt or boneless pork butt. Something that you might like is that the bone in them can act as a heat sink and slow the cooking process down – this will help you get an especially tender piece of meat.
2. Picnic Shoulder
Like I said, another name for a pork shoulder is picnic shoulder – we usually call the cut pork shoulder where I live but I do know some people that call it a picnic shoulder. As you might have guessed, it’s also from the shoulder area of the pig. However, unlike the pork butt that’s on the upper side, it’s more towards the bottom.
The thing is, the area where it’s from makes it leaner: it’s a way more worked area. I suggest that you slow cook it well if you want your pulled pork to be tender – I always try to slow cook pork shoulder for 6 hours at least and then let it rest for 15 minutes to really let the juices get inside.
Most of the time, you’ll get this cut bone-in, with some skin still on. But raw boneless pork shoulder is definitely something your butcher can get you if you ask.
Answered below are some popular questions.
1. How Much Pulled Pork Should I Order for 30 People?
The answer is that it depends on whether the meat is raw or already cooked. If it’s already cooked pork, a general rule of thumb would be to serve a 1/3 of a pound portion per person.
However, if it’s raw pork that you’re trying to make into pulled pork, there’s a trusty formula that can help. I touched on the pulled pork calculator formula earlier, and it’s basically the [number of guests x 1/3] x 2. So, with all the values plugged in, you’ll need 20 pounds of raw pork for your 30 guests.
2. What Can You Do With Left Over Pulled Pork?
If you had people over, my top suggestion would be to send them home with the leftovers. But you can also store the remaining pork and use it for later. I especially like using my homemade pulled pork leftovers for loaded nachos and quesadillas – my kids absolutely love them!
3. How Do You Store Leftover Pulled Pork?
You can either store pulled pork leftovers in the fridge or in the freezer. If you store them in the fridge, you can use them for up to 3 days. All you have to do is pack the meat into an airtight container. I don’t always have airtight containers ready – I like to marinate and recipe test so I have used ziplock bags and found that they work too.
To reheat the meat, you can actually use a few methods. I like using my grill (but a stovetop can work too) – you just let it get to a quick sizzle and then add your pulled pork on low to medium heat for around 12-15 minutes. Although you can also use the microwave, I really don’t advise it – you’ll lose flavor and also be dealt with unevenly warm meat.
If you want to serve pulled pork, a good portion size would be 1/3 of a pound. There’s actually a formula that you can use to help you get the right raw weight from the butcher – it depends of course on how many people you’re feeding and whether the cut has bones.
If you end up needing a lot of cooked pork, you can always try and add more sides if you don’t want to buy that much meat. I’d recommend going with potato salads and collard greens.